The evidence is mounting that shows nation state hacking groups are targeting vaccine development and research organizations for information involving COVID-19 vaccine development.
The information is most likely being used to obtain information to further the research programs in their respective countries.
Christopher Kreb, Director of CISA, confirmed that research organizations working on vaccine development for COVID-19 are vulnerable for attacks on their hardware, software, and services.
This comes as no surprise as these services are already under stress due to the increase in remote and teleworking due to the pandemic.
Security agencies in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom have recently warned that there is strong evidence that state-sponsored hacking groups linked to Russia, China, and Iran are conducting attacks to obtain COVID-19 research data, and earlier this month the U.S. Department of Justice indicted two Chinese nationals for hacking into the networks of U.S. organizations over a 10-year period, with recent hacks conducted to obtain COVID-19 vaccine research data.
To work towards combatting the hackers and protecting the informaiton, Rebublican Senators have proposed funding of $53 Million be allocated for the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help remediate vulnerabilities and enhance Federal network security to protect agencies involved in the development of a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.
The new COVID-19 relief legislation was unveiled by the Senate Committee on Appropriations this week, with the funding provided in addition to the $9.1 million granted to CISA under the President Trump’s CARES Act economic stimulus package.
The total new relief legislation will make close to $306 billion available with a large portion being allocated towards accelerating testing and administration of the vaccine.
This comes with a push for schools to reopen as quickly as possible.
A group of Democrat Senators, including Mark Warner, (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) , and Kamala Harris (D-CA) wrote to Senate and Concessional leaders urging them to include privacy protections for health data collected in relation to COVID-19.
Without appropriate privacy protections, there is concern that many Americans will not engage with contact tracers and efforts to collect valuable data to help with the fight against COVID-19 will be hampered.
In the letter, the Senators referenced a survey that indicated 84% of Americans are worried about the collection of health data by the government.
“Health data is among the most sensitive data imaginable and even before this public health emergency, there has been increasing bipartisan concern with gaps in our nation’s health privacy laws,” wrote the Senators in the letter. “While a comprehensive update of health privacy protections is unrealistic at this time, targeted reforms to protect health data – particularly with clear evidence that a lack of privacy protections has inhibited public participation in screening activities – is both appropriate and necessary.”
“Providing Americans with assurance that their sensitive health data will not be misused will give Americans more confidence to participate in COVID screening efforts, strengthening our common mission in containing and eradicating COVID-19,” wrote the Senators.